I glanced at the screen when my doorbell rang late one night. “Not this time, Ellie. I lost one home when you invited that man to move into our apartment. It won’t work a second time.”
I was wrong.
Two days later, and only hours before the Bailiffs arrived, the Policía Local visited my home. Ellie’s passport, handbag and clothing were found ― neatly folded ― on Torrecilla beach. That’s when I discovered the letters and my now empty Spanish bank accounts. Thankfully, Ellie wasn’t aware that I have another source of income. My hobby, creating unusual stories, proved to be lucrative. With some of the proceeds from my first book I bought a Volkswagen camper-van and rented a lock up. English and Spanish currency, jewellery and private correspondence are stored in the van.
When did this all begin, you might well ask?
Ellie enjoyed clubbing but the main problem was my daughter’s infatuation with a man called Nicolás Delgado Perez. They were in love, or so she claimed. Well, that’s how she described her feelings. After spending every waking moment with him for two weeks, she invited Nicolás to move into her apartment. He was none too pleased to discover the apartment he coveted was rented, the contract in my name.
Contacts within the English community are useful. Their warning about Nicolás shocked me. A murderer, I thought. What the hell were you thinking of Ellie?
My final task was to empty a safe hidden in the base of my bed. As I tucked currency into my backpack, I muttered, “It’s time to return home and face the music.”
Now that the debts are settled, I could have stayed in the apartment but the memories were too painful to bear. Wearily, I loaded my cases, bottles of water, food for the puppies, laptop and printer into the van. The puppies slipped through the partially open door seeking refuge in their travel bed.
“That’s it, little ones,” I whispered while fitting their travel harnesses, “we are good to go.”
I considered my stepson’s reaction when he discovered Ellie had, once again, emptied my bank accounts. I dreaded our first meeting. Enrique closely resembles his late father: he is a passionate man with a fiery Latin temperament.
Unusually, for the time of year, the roads leading out of Nerja were quiet. As I filled the tank with petrol, checked the tyres, Jack dropped a large backpack beside the van.
“Going somewhere, Jack?”
“My mother mentioned you were leaving Spain today, so I took refuge in the café to await your arrival. I’m just about out of cash so can I cadge a lift? Mum and dad kicked me out this morning. We had a difference of opinion. They went too far this time so I’m returning to the UK.”
“I’m aware of the rumours, Jack. Your parents lay the blame for Ellie’s misdemeanours at my door.”
“But the locals didn’t. The row in Jimmy’s bar was explosive. There’s no chance of finding a decent job in Spain so six months ago I applied to the university recommended by my tutor.”
“Bar work isn’t for you. Jack, it will be much safer with a man in the driver’s seat. I’ll pay your fare, provide food and drink, and ensure you have some cash. Organising the insurance will take just a few minutes online. When we get to the UK, you can stay in the first-floor apartment. Joe and Peaches arrived in Spain just a few weeks ago, so it shouldn’t take too long to ensure they’re fit to board the ferry. The pup’s passport, medical records and jabs are up to date.”
As we pulled out of the forecourt, I noticed a familiar young woman with platinum blond hair, huge tinted glasses and dressed in typical Spanish attire for her age group. For some inexplicable reason she laughed when the puppies sniffed the air and wined.
“Joe and Peaches recognised Ellie, didn’t they?”
“Changing your appearance is easy but hiding your scent from two terriers is impossible. I checked Google maps. With a couple of decent breaks, it should take around twelve hours.”
“Then we are good to go. Is it okay if I turn the radio on?”
“I love music, so that’s fine. Stop off at the café and I’ll buy something for brunch, nibbles and drinks. I’m starving.”
Apart from a stop to chat to the Civil Guard while they checked the van, the journey was uneventful. As we headed up the motorway, Jack glanced back at the Civil Guard.
“Were they checking the camper van to ensure we weren’t helping Nicolás and Ellie evade capture.”
“Spot on, Jack, I was married to a Spaniard for many years so I’m fluent. I feigned lack of knowledge in the hope that they would relax and reveal the real reason for stopping us.”
A little over ten hours later, we booked into an English owned guest house near the port. I groaned as we boarded the ferry.
“The weather forecast is dire, so we are in for a rough ride.”
That was an understatement. A little over thirty-two hours later we disembarked and headed to the hotel.
Bliss, I thought, as I scrambled into the large comfy bed. A bed that doesn’t tilt.
The door to my mid-terrace house in Harrogate was unlocked. Warily, I entered my home to be greeted by Enrique.
Blunt, and to the point, he hissed, “My accountant contacted me this morning.”
“And discovered Ellie emptied my bank accounts for the second time.”
“Third time,” he angrily responded. “But that isn’t the only problem. I asked two security guards to check on your daughter. They reported back this morning. Ellie and her companion, who are currently being hunted by the Civil Guard, are heading north. Their destination, or so we believe, is the border between France and Spain. Are you aware that Nicolás Delgado Perez…?”
“Yes, I am aware that he shot a security guard when a robbery went wrong?”
“Then you are also aware that an arrest warrant has been issued for Ellie.”
Dejectedly, I filled the kettle and made a pot of coffee. “I’m hungry, Enrique, so we will discuss Ellie’s antics after some of my favourite veggie soup and fresh crusty bread rolls followed by a cup or two of strong black coffee laced with Spanish brandy.”
I sensed his fury as he stalked around my living room. My stepson is, without doubt, a passionate hot tempered Spaniard who closely resembles his father, in looks and temperament. Tears trickled down my cheeks as I recalled the love shared with Juna. Even now, I miss my husband.
“Enrique, you appear to be contemplating an insurmountable problem.”
“You are astute,” he muttered. “At least with me. Ellie and Nicolás travelled to the UK on Eurostar, arriving early this morning. Somehow, they slipped past the police. Nicolás is fluent in French and English. Jake discovered that Ellie was travelling on a fake French passport.”
“How is he aware?”
“Contacts, Jenny. Jake called in favours. In Spain, it pays to have contacts in high places. They traded the car for a van and are now heading north. Yet again, your daughter has changed her appearance. Her hair is long and black with midnight blue flashes. Overnight, Ellie gained weight. She was wearing contact lenses: her eyes are dark brown, skin much darker. They travelled separately to the UK. Ellie as a foot passenger while Nicolás changed the number plates on his car, shaved off his long hair and removed the earrings. He was wearing a suit with pristine white shirt and tie and carried a briefcase. He’s clever. They went through passport control with no problems. Nicolás and Ellie are dangerous so you can’t stay in the apartment.”
“The young man who accompanied me on the journey to the UK is staying in my first floor flat. Enrique, Jack is a loyal friend. Without his help, I wouldn’t have reached my home. His tutor suggested enrolling at Leeds University. Though Jack’s parents are wealthy, they don’t support him, so I want you to ensure that he is financially secure.”
“If that is your wish. I’ll set up a bank account, arrange a lump sum and monthly allowance. Jenny, you won’t be returning to the UK so I’ll arrange for the house and your camper-van to be transferred to Jack.
“Nicolás is a murderer, so he’s not to be toyed with. A contact in Spain mentioned that the authorities applied for a European Arrest Warrant. It’s only a matter of time. I won’t allow you to take risks. Not only Nicolás is violent, your daughter participated in the robbery resulting in a security guard’s death. At my behest, Alec contacted the British Police this morning and questioned how Ellie emptied your accounts without you being aware.”
“Not all my accounts, Enrique.”
Jenny opened up her laptop and logged into the account. “Check it out. I have a new hobby which proved lucrative.” Jenny smiled at she watched her step-son, “I’m an author. Royalties from my books, which are best sellers, are paid into this account.”
As I glanced at a painting of my daughter and step-son beside a wedding photograph, tears trickled down my cheeks. “Juan,” I whispered dejectedly. “I’m sorry but I failed.”
“Hell,” Enrique hissed irascibly. “You didn’t fail, Ellie did.”
Dejectedly, I accompanied Enrique to his limousine.
While fitting the pup’s harnesses, I glanced, albeit briefly, at a couple seated astride a Harley Davidson. When the car door closed, Enrique phoned the police. As we headed towards the motorway, local police closed off all surrounding roads. Ellie and Nicolás were trapped. Ellie was taken to a holding cell while the police escorted Nicolás to London.
Barely two weeks later, Enrique discovered that my daughter was HIV positive. Tears trickled down my cheeks when he contacted a friend in the British Government. Ellie was released into his care. Although my daughter was taken to Enrique’s island, it was too late.
“She has two years, at the most. I asked Andrew to persuade the authorities to accept her onto an experimental program.” Enrique gently took my hand, “Ellie begged me to allow her to return to the UK. She’s my half-sister so I’m torn. My father adored her, but even he admitted that she was difficult.”
As I recalled the wonderful child we raised, tears trickled down my cheeks.
“Ellie is my only child. Unless alternative accommodation is already arranged, she can move into my apartment. I’ll provide her with a generous allowance and pay the bills. It’s the least I can do. Enrique, will a substantial donation to this organisation improve my daughter’s prospects.”
Enrique sighed, his impatience clear as he reached for his mobile. While making a fresh of coffee I attempted to eavesdrop, but it was pointless.
“I made a donation on your behalf. Ellie will join the program next week. No promises, Jenny. This is waiting game that will tax our patience.”